The 67-year-old art dealer Todd Brassner, who was once a friend of Andy Warhol, died in a four-alarm fire in his apartment in New York’s Trump Tower on Saturday. Brassner, who filed for bankruptcy in 2015, is said to have been a semi-recluse living with hundreds of electric guitars and art by Robert Indiana, Mati Klarwein, and others. It is unclear if his art—including a portrait of himself by Warhol—survived the blaze.
“He led a very out-there life,” Brassner’s first girlfriend, Jodi Stuart, told the New York Times. “We used to go to the Fillmore East and Max’s Kansas City… Todd got right in with the Factory and Andy Warhol.”
It was Brassner’s father, Jules Brassner, an art dealer and lighting manufacturer, who introduced him to the famed Pop artist. According to the Guardian, Warhol mentioned Brassner multiple times in his posthumously published diaries.
Brassner had lived in President Donald Trump’s signature Fifth Avenue skyscraper since 1996. Unhappy with increased security protocols introduced in the lead-up to the 2016 election, he had been unsuccessfully trying to sell the property for $2.5 million, according to NPR.
In recent years, Brassner is said to have become more and more confined to his increasingly cluttered apartment, turning away would-be visitors. His friend Stuart Pivar, a chemist and noted art collector, told the Times that Brassner suffered from drug addiction, which led him “shady characters, who snookered him out of masterpieces.”
Brassner’s 2015 bankruptcy filing noted that “he has been plagued with debilitating medical problems that have made it difficult for him to function,” according to the New York Post.
Firefighters arrived on site after 5:30 p.m. and found the 50th-floor apartment “virtually entirely on fire,” New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro told the Associated Press. Four firefighters suffered minor injuries. The cause of the fire, the second to take place in the building this year following a small rooftop electrical fire in January, is currently unknown.
Constructed in 1983, Trump Tower does not have a sprinkler system, which was not then required by city building code. Trump was allegedly among the developers who objected to the introduction of sprinkler regulations, which he characterized as an unnecessary expense. Later, Trump spent $3 million installing sprinklers at Trump World Tower near the United Nations headquarters.
Trump has spent little time in New York since taking office, but has a penthouse apartment in the 58-story building, while the Trump Organization is housed on the 26th floor. Members of the Trump family were not present when the fire broke out. As reported by the Times, a Secret Service team accompanied firefighters during an inspection of Trump’s unit.
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